A Brief History of Evil

The problem of evil has confounded humans throughout history.  Philosophers and theologians have perennially constructed systems and myths to assuage the perception of the contingency of life.  Religious belief, at least in Western civilization, usually filled in the gaps between the “ought” and the “is” that conflicted in the minds of those affected by the calamity caused by natural evil, or so-called acts of God.  For Jews and Christians, Original Sin and the break it caused within the moral order also disrupted the natural order; this concept provided a systemic understanding of why evil exists.  For Christians, the Resurrection is the proleptic fulfillment of mankind’s hope that the moral “ought” is on its way to rectification, making life bearable.  With the Enlightenment, however, the world became disenchanted.  It relied on science to solve man’s problems, and, when this failed, philosophers eventually accepted the futility of existence and proclaimed the death of God.  For postmodern men, neither traditional belief nor “modern thought” is acceptable, according to Susan Neiman.  She contends, rather, that both solutions fail to satisfy the man who wishes to know not only why evil exists but how to control it.

Neiman identifies two crises in history that reflect breaks with the dominant worldview of the time.  The first was...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here